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. . . a weekly service for the media on news items related to marijuana prohibition.

July 25, 1997

Washington State High Court Overturns Seeley Medical
Marijuana Decision

          July 25, 1997, Olympia, Washington:  The Supreme Court of Washington rejected the use of marijuana as medicine in an 8-1 ruling yesterday.  The decision reverses a declaratory judgment handed down by Superior Court Judge Rosanne Buckner in October 1993 stating that a seriously ill patient's need to use medical marijuana overrides the state's interest in outlawing use of the drug.
          Defendant Ralph Seeley, an attorney from Takoma who suffers from a rare form of bone cancer and uses marijuana to alleviate the nausea of chemotherapy, argued last year that his constitutional rights were violated by state and federal laws that allow doctors to prescribe cocaine and opium, but not marijuana.  After nearly ten months of deliberations, the state's highest court rejected his argument.
          Writing for the court, Judge Barbara Madsen opined: "The rights of privacy and personal liberty do not establish a fundamental right to drug treatment free of govemment police power."  The court also rejected the assertion that their exists sufficient scientific evidence demonstrating smoked marijuana to be an effective medicine.  "The evidence presented by [Seeley] is insufficient to convince this court that it should interfere with the broad judicially recognized prerogative of the Legislature."
          In addition, Seeley had argued that placing marijuana in Schedule I is not rationally related to the state's purpose of preventing drug abuse because other prohibited drugs like cocaine and opium are rescheduled to allow for their limited medical use while still forbidden recreationally.  The court failed to agree and ruled that "the Legislature could reasonably consider marijuana's widespread availability and its pattern for abuse as requiring a different legislative response than to other substances [such as cocaine.]"
          In a scathing dissent, Judge Richard Sanders cited Supreme Court precedents set in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey to establish the defendant's constitutional right to self medicate with marijuana.  "The majority cannot distinguish these cases," Sanders opined.  "If the state cannot prohibit abortions consistent with due process, it can hardly constitutionally prohibit drug use as its interest to do so is arguably less important."
          Sanders also questioned the compassion of the court and the Legislature.  "I wonder how many minutes of Seeley's agony the Legislature and/or the majority of this court would endure before seeing the light," he pondered.  "Words are insufficient to convey the needless suffering which the merciless state has imposed."
          R. Keith Stroup, Executive Director of NORML criticized the court's ruling and emphasized the need for voters to pass a state initiative this fall that would strengthen a patient's right to use medicinal marijuana.  "The majority's ruling in this case defies compassion," he said.  "Furthermore, it underscores the need for voters to approve Initiative 685, the Drug Medicalization Act of 1997.  This initiative would confer some important legal protections for seriously ill medical patients."
          For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Attorney Jeffrey Steinbom of NORML's Amicus Curiae Committee @ (206) 622-5117.

(Meanwhile) Politics Surrounding Medical Marijuana Heat Up
In The Nation's Capitol
Clinton Administration Defends Medical Mariinana ... While Trying To Defeat It At
The Same Time

          July 25, 1997, Washington, D.C.:  Politicians in the nation's capitol are once agaln stoking the flames over medical marijuana.
          Spurred by former Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes' criticism of a District of Columbia initiative to allow for the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey is chomping at the bit against medical marijuana.  In a July 24 guest column that appeared in The Washington Times, he asked the citizens of Washington, D.C. to "not allow their compassion to blind them."  He further argued that any endorsement of the use of marijuana as a medicine would "send the wrong message to children."
          NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre cautioned McCaffrey to avoid this type of public relations campaign against the will of a majority of Americans.  He stated: "Last time Gen. McCaffrey engaged in this type of 'low-road' rhetoric on a medical marijuana initiative, California and Arizona citizens voted in greater numbers in favor of medical marijuana than they did for the General's boss, President Clinton."
          McCaffrey also wrote to all of the political leaders in the District of Columbia (including the President, Senate Majority Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and asked them to vigorously and publicly condemn Initiative 57.
          The initiatives supporters hope to have the measure on the 1998 ballot.
          The NORML Foundation's St. Pierre noted: "It's terribly ironic that the Clinton administration must now defend Governor Weld's support of medical marijuana, while at the same time, it's lead anti-drug warrior is trying to whip-up sufficient public sentiment against the further passage of a state initiative endorsing legal medical access to the drug.  When will the Drug Czar and the Clinton Administration accept the will of the voters and stop denying seriously-ill medical patients relief from their pain and ailments?"
          For more information on the Clinton administration's position on medical marjuana and Washington, D.C.'s Initiative 57, please contact the NORML Foundation's Allen St. Pierre @ (202) 483-8751.